PREMIERE: Shannon Clark & the Sugar Triumph Over Loss on “Let It Ride”

Shannon Clark & the Sugar hail from Greenville, Ohio, home of the American sharpshooter Annie Oakley. It’s a connection that feels natural when listening to their upcoming album Marks on the Wall, a collection of what lead singer Shannon Clark often calls “Midwest Americana Soul.” The record (out May 14, 2021), twists and turns in terms of genre, but their latest single “Let it Ride” may be the most personal, a shot to the heart. It’s a diary entry straight from Shannon’s past and a call to action for the future.

“I’ve buried a daughter way before her time/I’d take her place a million, million times/but I let it ride,” Shannon sings, his eldest daughter Navie Clark’s husky voice vibrating slightly as it echoes his own. The pace of the drums, played by Shannon’s wife Brittany Clark, is steady, acting as a form of meditation throughout. It’s a song that could easily play in the back of a nouveau western film, the story behind the lyrics lost in moving images. But once a listener’s ear tunes in, the story can’t help but move into focus.

“Everything in that song, every line that I sing in that song is real,” Shannon explains. “I do have a sister that lives in Modesto, I don’t ever get to see her. She’s my half sister. My dad, who I didn’t meet ’til I was 24, I found him, he didn’t find me. My mom went through a lot of abusive relationships when she was younger.” For Shannon, the journey of this particular blues song is exploring the negative elements of his past before shrugging them off triumphantly – leaving them not in the dust, but as a carefully placed notch in the belt of existence.

Shannon’s love of music started from a childhood soundtracked by classic country and rock ‘n’ roll acts, from Patsy Cline to Queen. His mom was a radio disc jockey for fifteen years, working at a few major stations in Dayton, Ohio. “She was really well known around the area,” Shannon says. “She was a single mom, so I would go to the radio station – she got to drag me along because she didn’t always have a sitter. She’d work the late shift, I’d be coloring on the floor of the radio station while she was spinning records. That’s kind of where I got my start I guess, my love of music. She’d drag me to concerts, make me sit in the press box with her until it was over.” Shannon even met Reba McEntire and Vince Gill, but remembers his 6th grade self being impatient, angsty, and less-than-impressed.

Shannon and Brittany grew up in the same small town, even went to the same church, but ultimately met playing music. “I was playing in a band and we had a big show coming up. Our band broke up and I needed a drummer to fill in,” Shannon remembers. “I asked her because someone said she was playing drums, and she did, and we became really good friends. That grew into more; 16 years later and we’ve got these guys running around.”

It was a moment of kismet that mirrored Brittany’s newly found passion for drumming. She had been practicing for a few years before she joined the band, but performing was never top of mind – her first show was the one she performed with Shannon. “It was kind of an accident because my uncle had this old drum set that he’d had when he was in high school,” Brittany recalls. “It was from the sixties. Just this old piece of crap, full of dust. He was like ‘Hey if you want this, take it. Otherwise it’s going to the trash’ right? So I took it, drug it home, cleaned it up and put new heads on it.”

She practiced by playing along with her CD collection, particularly Sheryl Crow. “I would listen to these Sheryl Crow albums and I would learn every single song,” she says. “I would just play religiously. I would come home from school, I wouldn’t even do my homework, I would just go down and play drums for two hours. I know I drove my parents crazy… There wasn’t really a motivation to be in a band. I just loved playing. It was an itch I had to scratch. No lessons – Sheryl Crow taught me.”

The band started out as a pop punk group called Everybody Else Wins. Brittany was 16 when they recorded their first record. “I always kind of wrote the same way, but I put it behind heavy guitar riffs and catchy melodies,” Shannon said of the time period. “My love for music was always deeper than what I was doing then. That was what was popular. When you’re young you don’t always have a lot of depth of knowledge. It took me ’til later to realize that wasn’t the kind of music I really loved.”

The band was on the move, touring and performing at Warped Tour in 2006 and 2007 on the Ernie Ball Stage. Then Shannon and Brittany’s second daughter passed away, and their hearts just weren’t into touring. The Clark family kept creating music, but kept it at home, teaching eldest daughter Navie how to sing harmonies to Ryan Adams songs.

“I started playing guitar when I was younger,” Navie Clark tells Audiofemme. “My dad bought me a guitar and I was maybe four or five, and I kinda always had one lying around. But I didn’t really get serious about playing ’til about a year ago, year and half. I think I was getting into new music, my taste was expanding and I wanted to be able to play this music I was hearing. And I think piano, we just had this gap in the band. We needed someone to play.”

“I’m proud of her because she has a record player and she plays good records, but she does like Harry Styles,” Shannon says. “It’s my guilty pleasure music,” Navie responds with a grin.

For the last three years, the family has performed as Shannon Clark & the Sugar, bringing together Shannon’s love of Glen Hansard and Amos Lee, Brittany’s love of John Prine, Bob Dylan and Brandi Carlile, and Navie’s love of old-school Dolly Parton.

Their upcoming album Marks on the Wall is the first album Shannon and Brittany have sat down in a studio and written together; previously, Shannon took the lead on songwriting. “[Brittany’s] always felt self-conscious about writing,” Shannon explains. “She didn’t think she could be a writer – she didn’t have that creative spark, she told me. These are her words, not mine. As we progressed, I’m coming in constantly, she’s doing dishes, taking care of the kids, and I’m like ‘Hey check this out, listen to this song, listen to this riff,’ and she’d always give me ideas and pointers. Our whole marriage she’s done this, so she’s really been writing with me since we were first together.”

As the album progressed, Navie also began finding her place in the band, taking the harmonies her parents wrote and rearranging them. The resulting music is layered: a father’s voice speaking his truth, his daughter’s voice echoing it back to him.

Navie has also had to step up in a big way for a sixteen-year-old musician. Michael Chavez, John Mayer’s former touring guitar player, played guitar on the record. Navie takes his spot in the band’s live performances, singing not only the harmonies she’s written, but also the guitar licks Chavez created during the recording process.

The band worked with Grammy award-winning producer, Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, U2, Neil Young, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Emmy Lou Harris, Willie Nelson) on the record. It was Howard who insisted on a recording rule: three takes, we’re done. “This record’s not perfect; it’s not supposed to be,” Shannon says. “We wanted to capture moments so the performances are raw and they’re emotional and they’re live. We sang together in the room instead of separate tracks. I feel like you can feel that on this record and that’s what I wanted.”

Brittany was behind the idea of an imperfect recording, too, adding, “If you go to a live performance you’re going to hear chairs squeak or something off. [The record has] that live feeling.”

Much of the record is deeply personal to the Clark family, touching on personal histories and deep-seated pain. It’s the reaction to the pain they’re interested in exploring in songs like “Let It Ride.”

“It doesn’t matter when the rain comes, as long as you get dry,” Shannon says of the song. “Everyone’s gonna have something that happens to them. I think a lot people can hold on to those things their whole life and it effects their lives. Those people hold power and those situations hold power over that person. They can never be who they were meant to be, they can never develop into a regular beautiful person because they’ve got all this baggage they bring with them constantly. And I think that it’s important to let it go.”

“Let it ride,” Brittany and Navie echo in unison.

“Once you can commit it to a recording, that’s therapeutic too,” Brittany says. “You can get it off your chest, it’s concrete somewhere and you don’t have to carry that.”

The Clark family is disturbingly well-adjusted, easily joking with one another, poking each other about a recent fight they had just before the interview (Brittany spent the majority of the conflict banging on her drum set). They speak a common language: music, the driving force in their lives. It’s the medium in which they speak to one another and to their audience. For now, with COVID-19 still raging throughout the country, live shows are at a standstill, but the band is chomping at the bit to perform some mini-tours, just as they did when they were starting out. In the early days, they’d leave their young children with a family member.

“We would try to go play three or four shows, and come back,” Shannon recalls. “We never wanted to be bad parents – that was more important than the music to us.” Now that Navie is in the band, they don’t have to worry about that too much – and Shannon Clark & the Sugar have never sounded so sweet.

Follow Shannon Clark & the Sugar on Instagram for ongoing updates.

PLAYING CINCY: SIOUX Finds His Groove On ‘Whiskey House Bar Music’ EP


Earlier this week, SIOUX flexed his introspective side on his new EP, Whiskey House Bar Music. Over danceable lo-fi beats produced by Rocco., the Cincinnati MC expresses extreme relatability when it comes to all sides of love—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whiskey House Bar Music is an idea of a project fully consumed out in the middle of nowhere with little to no resources when it comes to quality,” SIOUX explains.

In an interview with AudioFemme, he described what he was going for in terms of experimenting with “low-quality sound” and how he was feeling during the recording process.

“Basically, I wanted to make a broken-love project,” says SIOUX. “That means I wanted almost a low-quality basement sounding project that seems like it was made really quick, due to a broken heart, and fresh off the feelings of that.”

Lyrically, SIOUX dips into both the darkest sides of love and the euphoric highs that it can bring, all while easygoing instrumentals create a comforting backdrop.

“I wanted to use very familiar-sounding beats but with a dark/metallic sound with my voice but with very true and echoing lyrics that love can bring,” he continued. “The good and bad—great and disastrous. You could say a ‘beautiful disaster’ in the lovelife of a sensitive person.”

“Everybody that has loved can connect with these words,” he told AudioFemme.

During the recording process, which spanned across two months, SIOUX used visualization to elicit—and buffer himself from—the vulnerability that the project demanded.

“The reason I called it Whiskey House Bar Music is because for some reason I couldn’t stop visualizing that this is the type of music you might hear in a random bar out in the middle of nowhere,” he said.

SIOUX / Photo by Chris Williams

“The type of scene that [I pictured] is one guy in a strip bar sipping on Coke and rum, with a single stripper in the building dancing from a distance,” he continued, describing the contrasting feelings of intimacy and isolation that are found in the EP. “It’s almost like they’re connecting on a broken-down, personal level. That’s the scene that was in my head while recording this.”

SIOUX, who belongs to the Ohio-based hip hop collective Casual Crooks, has been steadily releasing music this year, with his sophomore album, Grounded Star, arriving this past September.

Stream SIOUX’s Whiskey House Bar Music EP below.

PLAYING CINCY: Dave Chappelle Brings Stevie Wonder, Chance the Rapper & More to Dayton Benefit Concert

gem city shine

For this week’s Playing Cincinnati, we traveled 20 miles north to Dave Chappelle’s Gem City Shine Benefit Concert in Dayton, Ohio.

Chappelle, who lives in the neighboring Ohio town of Yellow Springs, threw the enormous block party to commemorate the nine lives lost in a recent mass shooting at a local bar that left nine people dead. Over 20,000 people attended the star-studded event to see Stevie Wonder, Chance the Rapper, Teyana Taylor, Jon Stewart, and more.

Throughout Gem City Shine, Chappelle preached unity and resilience.

“We’re not just doing this for our city,” Chappelle said. “We’re doing this for every victim of every mass shooting in our country.”

For his efforts, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also took the stage to deem August 25 as Dave Chappelle Day.

The day began with a Sunday Service lead by Kanye West in Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark. Rumors had been circulating about what A-listers would attend the evening benefit, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, John Legend, and Barack Obama. There were some murmurings about Gaga working the funnel cake booth – however, she did not perform.

gem city shine
The crowd gathers in the Dayton Oregon District Sunday, August 25.

DJ Trauma kicked off the event, with performances followed by Thundercat, Talib Kweli, and Teyana Taylor.

Taylor, who brought her daughter Junie onstage, broke down while a video montage of the shooting victims played on the screen behind her.

Jon Stewart arrived to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Chappelle, who turned 46 on Saturday, and to introduce Chance the Rapper.

“Dayton, Ohio, you have reclaimed this area with love, with hope, and with resilience,” Stewart said.

Chance turned up with old favorites and new songs off his latest album, The Big Day.

“I appreciate ya’ll so much for showing up as a city, for representing love, to represent healing and to represent community,” Chance said. “I pray that we get some type of protection from this and grow from it.”

Stevie Wonder emerged as Gem City Shine’s headliner, performing hits like “Higher Ground,” “Superstition,” and even singing another round of “Happy Birthday” for Chappelle.

“This is how we really will honor them,” Wonder said of the Dayton victims. “By making sure we change the gun laws of this nation.”

Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to donate to the victims’ families through the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund and to sign the petition in support of gun control laws in Ohio. Donations are still being accepted online here.

PLAYING CINCY: Introducing Cincinnati Rap Trio Patterns of Chaos

Patterns of Chaos is a Cincinnati hip hop trio creating positive and sometimes head-banging hip-hop emphasizing heavily conscious messages about to bless your life. Cellist and rapper Christoph “Toph” Sassmannshaus, producer Alexander “Stallitix” Stallings and rapper Jay Hill met at Off Tha Block Mondays, a collaborative hip-hop showcase that Stallitix launched at The Mockbee. The group has had a busy year, releasing their latest album Freedom in June and brand new single “Sleep Paralysis” last week. Right now, they’re gearing up for some big things in 2019, including a monthly residency at Revel OTR Urban Winery, a collaborative studio networking effort they’ve named the Nervous System and another full-length project. Here, get to know the guys, their album and what to expect next year.

AF: So the single that you just released, “Sleep Paralysis,” came about really organically; can you tell me more about that?

T: We all record at my house—I have a studio set up where everything can be recorded constantly all the time. [Alex] was making a beat, I was making a bass line, Jay was writing a rap and then Gabi (Ladi Tajo) just started singing and we were like, ‘Get in front of the microphone!’ So she got in front of the microphone and jammed for like ten minutes.

J: I actually wrote like the first eight bars of that verse before that night. It was about self-preservation, but in a healthy way, as in trying not to waste myself. It’s basically like what sleep paralysis feels like—you’re just watching it unfold.

A: It’s a smooth song, but it has a very cryptic theme to it. I think sleep paralysis is something anybody over the age of 18 has dealt with, and like figuring out what it is to be an adult. Feeling like you’ve got to make an impact on the world, but also loving thyself.

AF: Your album Freedom came out this year – what were some of your inspirations going into the album and what were some of the messages you were trying to convey?

A: We’re different people, but we have similar stories. I think our approach was we were trying to speak a story to people in high school, where you have all these different friends—there’s the nerd, the gamer, the cool one—but in that same breath you still feel alone. Our second song, “Amorphous,” came from how you can fit into all these constructs and yet nobody can put you in a box. And then also dealing with problems of the past that keep coming up, like racism.

J: Systematic oppression—we were born into this war that we have no choice but to participate in and it’s already my kid’s problem—and I don’t have kids! And I think it’s really weird how a lot of the world’s issues are based on millennials and they try to blame us for things that we’re not even old enough to influence because that’s just not how the government works. Watching this all happen again, after they told us these exact issues were solved when we were young—it’s kind of a shock. Being told you can do anything, you can be anything, and then accessing the Internet like, ‘These motherfuckers lied to me!’ More than anything, I feel angry. Feeling like we shouldn’t have had to worry about it—thought it was dead gone and forgotten.

AF: That theme definitely shines through the song “MMM.” Do you guys each have a favorite song off the record?

A: “Free Your Body Your Mind” because I get to push more buttons.

T: My favorites are probably “Amorphous” because of Gabi and “32 Love” because I like bars.

AF: Toph, when did you learn how to play the cello?

T: I’ve been classically trained and I’ve been playing classical music for most of my life. About two years ago I was going to shows while I was in music school and seeing these really experimental acts and one day I saw somebody make loops and somebody else rap over it and my mind was blown. I was like, ‘I want to do that!’ So I got an electric cello and a looper pedal and I started making beats.

Credit: Patterns of Chaos

AF: Very cool. Where did the idea for the monologue at the end of “Let’s Talk Freedom” come from?

T: It’s kind of our thing to have a little break where Alex can talk because I get to talk, Jay gets to talk, so it gives him the floor. And he used to do spoken word.

A: Yeah, back in Sacramento I was part of a youth [poetry] slam team, Brave New Voices. When I came out here I started making beats and stuff like that; they’re trying to get me back into it.

AF: You should! It adds a unique texture. Who are some of your musical influences?

J: Kanye, but also Das Racist is my favorite group ever. Rage Against the Machine. Utada Hikaru, she’s a Japanese singer. I like her music, it’s healing.

A: J Dilla, John Coltrane, soundtracks like Kill BillStylistics, Al Green, all of Motown, Sarah Vaughan.

T: [Johannes] Brahms, MF DOOM, Gentle Giant.

AF: Who are some artists you’d love to collaborate with?

T: “Weird Al” Yankovic [laughs]. We’ve been trying to collab with every Cincinnati artist.

Credit: Patterns of Chaos

AF: You guys have a single in the works. What else is coming up?

T: We have a bunch of unreleased music in the works.

AF: Are you looking at releasing a full project in 2019?

T: Yeah, we’re looking at a full project and we’ve got some music videos coming out.

A: And we’re doing a few shows in California in January in San Francisco, L.A. and Sacramento.

AF: Cool! So what can fans expect from you guys next year in terms of shows out here?

T: Costumes!

J: We’re gonna make the shows a bit more showman-like.

AF: Matching costumes? Maybe capes?

T: I don’t see why we couldn’t do capes.

J: Picture The Incredibles on stage.

A: No capes!

T: It’s two against one, so we’re gonna come out with capes [laughing].

J: We’re gonna up the showmanship while maintaining the rawness of the music. Just a little sugar to go with the medicine, without decreasing the potency of what we are trying to say.

Credit: Patterns of Chaos

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Galen Tipton Sparkles on First LP Nightbath

As the dusk of May began to fall on Ohio, I discovered fireflies. The first time I saw them, flickering across my cobbled neighborhood street, my overjoyed reaction made my roommate laugh: pointing and squealing like a kid, I couldn’t get over the shock of them, the way that they zipped through the air, appearing as their lights turned on, and disappearing as they turned off. In California, I had dreamed of fireflies as a string of lanterns–as lazy, hazed orbs. But these fireflies were not like that at all; instead, it felt as though the air had gifted me with a thousand miniature spontaneous combustions.

Listening to Galen Tipton’s Nightbath feels like finding fireflies – the same rush of surprise comes to me as I listen to Tipton manipulate sounds, pushing and pulling elements so that, like the fireflies’ lights, they appear and disappear with heady energy. Tipton produced the entire album electronically, and I struggle to describe what they’ve produced with enough detail to match their accomplishment. Each sound used seems to be intimately crafted, as though in the making of the album, Tipton has blown thousands of glass balls, only to set them loose to smash against each other. The crafted quality, while difficult to describe, is also what makes the album compelling–each sequence of sounds brings with it the imprint of human design along with otherworldly effect. On Nightbath, Tipton has set up a carefully designed Rube Goldberg machine. One musical movement triggers another, and doubles of familiar sounds are tweaked to make them slightly new again. They walk a tricky line: if the sounds ring too close to home, they’ll come off as uncanny; too far, and they’ll lose any human context.

The record’s opening track, “endless black,” pours out in a rush of twinkling notes and scuttling, lurching beats. “I just feel everything, all the time,” a distorted voice says, about 2/3rds through the track. I feel that too–but on “endless black,” information overload, in the form of overlapping sounds, feels sorted. Likewise, on the album’s title track, Tipton builds an initially simple melody with layer upon layer of newly introduced sounds, recklessly changing the rhythm, tone, and octave throughout. But the song never feels like an onslaught. Moments of oasis, when layers peel back to reveal quiet, melodic beauty, serve as stepping stones throughout the track, leading the listener forward through the spinning sound elements.

Other songs, like “mutant,” featuring Atlas Moe, Tripp Fontane, T5UMUT5UMU, and Junior Astronaut, make me giddy. The song starts off with a syncopated, squealing beat, before a sound like the patter of footsteps on tin ushers the listener into a sequence of escalating pulses. After the pulses drop, shined, xylophone-like sounds spill into melody; it feels, only forty-six seconds in, as though while listening to the song I’ve parted the curtain into an alternate, brightly washed universe, where sounds as disparate as spooky Halloween effects and eating fruit on a beach make sense in tandem.

With Nightbath, Tipton has revealed the multi-modality of their talents: along with mixing and mastering the entire album, Tipton created all of the project’s artwork. But they are, above all else, a master conductor. Nightbath juggles fifteen collaborations throughout, mixing voices from Columbus’ electronic community, artists from Tipton’s label, DESKPOP, and featured artists and producers from around the world. It’s a testament to Tipton’s talent for composition that the album was even puzzled together. Yet Nightbath is an album invested both in small-scale craft and large-scale coherence, and, despite the number, each collaboration truly brings something new and needed.

The collaborations, too, reveal Tipton’s apparent interest in music as community; nine of the featured artists are, like Tipton, queer and non-binary. These partnerships have paid off: Nightbath succeeds as a multi-faceted sound project because each facet works in harmony. If handled poorly, I imagine that this album might have exhausted itself by introducing too many combative elements. But, while the project is clearly grounded in Tipton’s engineering, Nightbath treats each collaborative sequence as integral to the overall vision. As a result, the listener is not barraged by fighting sounds; rather, the sensation of listening to Tipton’s music feels much like taking in an elaborately woven tapestry. It’s a sensation representative of the lineage Nightbath comes from: experimental albums made by trans artists who specialize in manipulating sound.

Photo courtesy of Galen Tipton

Most remarkable, I think, is that you don’t need to forget about the crafting of Nightbath for it to be fun. Listening to the release for the first time, part of my glee came from marveling at the largeness of the music, at its unrelenting dips, inclines, and switchback. But the album also just makes me want to dance. It’s hard to listen without squirming in your seat, itching to realize the possibilities for movement folded into each beating sequence. There is something to be said, too, about what expansive music can do to a body: how it can unlock new ways to move, to travel, to understand oneself.

Summer in Ohio has been a surprise in many ways: I didn’t expect the rot, or the thunderstorms; the thickly humid air, or the sparkle of anticipation that comes before lightning. I didn’t expect surprise to feel good, either. But it does–I’m treasuring the shock of new seasons, and of new plants and bugs. There is freeness in feeling that any corner could bring wonder.

Back when I first saw fireflies, my roommate and I chased them in the cool evening air. He tried to show me how to catch one, fitting one cupped hand against the other. I failed each time I tried. This is what I’m learning in these high summer days: things don’t need to be contained to be felt. Surprise, when left expansive, can be difficult to share. But I am energized by the joy I hold secretly inside myself. Listening to Nightbath, I am struck by the way that it, too, resists my cupped hands. This resistance, the difficulty I have fitting my feelings about the album into words, is what will keep me going back to it.

Nightbath Is available via DESKPOP records. Stream the full album here:

For disclosure purposes: Kaiya Gordon’s poem “Roleplay as a Body” will be included in a zine released by DESKPOP to accompany Nightbath.

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Stems Fearlessly Fuse Prog and Hip-Hop on Debut

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photo by Annie Noelker

Stems started as a high school project, but they’ve come a long way since band class. In the past year, the group – which members describe as “prog-hop” – has released an EP, two singles, and an album; they’ve been featured by Columbus’ Mouth Mag and The Dispatch; and on March 23rd they dropped their debut album with a show at Kafe Kerouac.

That album, Out of Fear, is a forceful premiere. The twelve songs, which range from a breezy 1:36 to 4:14, are decidedly ambitious in their variance. This is not a one-shot album; rather, Stems has been careful to draw from a wide selection of musical references and tools. Mickey Shuman, the group’s guitarist as well as composer, has managed to build out a full album which weaves a wide net: though tonally coherent, Out of Fear wriggles out from under genre-specific descriptors, shifting triumphantly from song-to-song.

The leading song, “Vices,” bounces between vocalist Kendall Martin’s relentless verses and an addictive, staccato guitar riff. It sets the tone for the whole album: beyond Martin’s lyrical explorations, Out of Fear navigates the relationships between disparate compositional elements. It’s reminiscent of a jazz ensemble – elements converse with each other, building the meaning of the song as they stagger in and out of focus. The additional two musicians in the group, Dante Montoto (bass) and Zach Pennington (drums), round out the quartet, grounding the instrumental conversation in a traditionalist four-piece structure.

Given the technical attention on Out of Fear, an initial instinct might be to question whether the album fits within hip-hop. But I’d argue that hip-hop has always been multiply-modal. The introduction of samples, remixing, verses, and electronic adjustment all speak to the relational quality of hip-hop and the importance of multiple voices to each track. What is remarkable about Stems’ work, then, is not the urge to expand their music but the way that expansion highlights each instrument’s vibrancy. Remarkable, too, is the ease with which Stems shifts beats and time signatures within the album, each song, and even within verses. Stems will shrug off one beat and into another so casually it’s easy to forget they’re trying something new each time.

“Out of Fear,” the album’s namesake and second single, is driven forward by an emotional and wrenchingly paced performance by Martin. “My life don’t mean the same as yours / this is America,” Martin raps, “where they judge you by your skin / and not your character.” It’s not the first stirring moment on the album, but it the careful balance Martin is able to strike between clarity, flow, and felt emotion in his lyrics and vocal performance still gives me pause each time I listen.

Stems’ emergence in Columbus comes as part of a long legacy of both hip-hop and rock in Central Ohio. And though, for many reasons, it is often not easy for youth to thrive in Ohio, it’s exciting to see bands like Stems unabashedly experiment with their releases, and to see them collaborating with other young artists, musicians, and makers.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYING COLUMBUS: The Turbos Critique Police Brutality with New Video

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Photo courtesy of Mitchell Multimedia

“America, it’s the land of the free/Most have rights, but they don’t extend to me.” These powerful lines open The Turbos’ latest release, “‘Murica.” Filmed by Caden Huston, the video that accompanies the new song shows the four-piece playing in front of a screen that flashes images of police brutality, sirens, and hashtags naming those who have been killed at the hands of police. As the video progresses, the images become distorted by screen glitches. With lyrics that describe faults between police testimony and recorded events, these increasingly glitchy images suggest a link between violence and manipulated truth. At the same time, The Turbos’ driving rock performance, as well as singer Alex D.’s moving vocal performance, compels the listener to think about resistance.

It’s an apt video to release in Columbus Ohio, which has one of the highest rates of deadly police shootings in the country. Just weeks ago, unarmed teenager Joseph Haynes was killed by police at Franklin County Courthouse. On Monday, members of Columbus’ #BlackPride4 were found guilty on 6 of 8 charges related to police interaction, despite months of community push-back.

“‘Murica” comes approximately a year after The Turbos’ debut EP Alternator, which was recorded after the members of the band – Matt Love, Cameron Reck, Lucas Esterline, and Alex D. – started working together as a side-project. The songs on Alternator take influence from the members’ disparate bands, as well as the Columbus rock scene as a whole. Though the EP comes in at just under 25 minutes long, each of those minutes is texturally ambitious, giving the overall project an anthemic impression.

The lyrics are charged, but that’s part of what makes listening to The Turbos dynamic–and the overall force of the music is reminiscent of your favorite ’90s garage-rock artists. It’s music that makes your body want to move.

At 8pm on Saturday, The Turbos celebrate their new single at The Shrunken Head in Columbus. They’ll be joined by Miller and the Hunks, who are releasing their new EP, And Jeff…pt. 2, as well as The A.M. Soul Society and Courtney from Work. For the sake of Columbus music fans, here’s hoping the show is only the first sign of more work to come from The Turbos.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Damn the Witch Siren Makes ‘Magic’ on New album

Their first album since 2015’s Back to Dreaming, Damn the Witch Siren’s latest release, Red Magic is brooding and addictive. The band’s tags on Bandcamp almost say it all: “electronic, electropop, pop, sex, witch rock, Columbus,” they read. But along with the sex, and the dance beats, and the fizzy electronics, Damn the Witch Siren have, once again, produced a project which manages to make lyrically ambitious work sound effortless.

“On nights when I’m feeling superstitious/I light all the candles and burn the corners of my room,” starts Red Magic on opener “Sex U Up.” But the exterior ritual set up by these opening lines quickly turn interior; attention transitions from the “room” to “skin,” which, much like the image of burning candles before it, “spills.” Simultaneous to this physical transition, the lyrics introduce a level of–apparently sensual–taste, which continues through the rest of the song; “superstitious” becomes “superdelicious,” though the similarity between the words suggests that the two are closely tied.

In other words, Red Magic immediately introduces a complicated relationship between body and ceremony, sex and superstition. But it succeeds in doing this work without sounding strenuous; singer Bobbi Kitten’s driving vocals, paired with a quickening dance beat, are irresistible, weaving together to make music which almost compels the listener to moan along – vowels, notes, whatever halves of lyrics you can hear over the throbbed electronic sounds.

Formed in 2012, Damn the Witch Siren is made up of Columbus locals Krista Botjer and Nathan Photos (stage names Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf, respectively) who came together after discovering a shared interest in experimentation and interdisciplinary art. Since then, they’ve collaborated on three albums and one EP. It’s a pretty prolific output for two people in six years, and their live performances are even more ambitious – the pair draw on theater backgrounds to build elaborately composed performances heavy on visual elements.

The band’s been interested in gendered experience, sexuality, and magic since the beginning, so while Red Magic doesn’t necessarily signal a stylistic depart for Damn the Witch Siren, the sleek production and general breadth of sounds invoked exemplify the years and labor that have gone into the project. One stand-out on the album is “Forever Young,” which invests a full minute in layered beats and noises reminiscent of twinkling lights before Kitten’s voice is folded in. It’s an excellent paring of high and low: quicker, vibration-heavy noises sometimes migrate into piercing range, and Kitten’s voice is partially obscured by twanging synths, but a low and steady bass beat grounds the song throughout.

Above all, each song on Red Magic is dance-able – in fact, the album almost insists upon movement. It’s fun and finessed pop, anchored by lyrics deeply interested in embodiment and bodily possibilities. And until the band’s album release party (Saturday, February 10th at Spacebar, accompanied by Columbus’ own Betsy Ross and Osea Merdis), I plan on binge-listening; letting myself get lost in the varied sounds; feeling both scary and sweet.

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Saintseneca Returns to Their Roots

Columbus’ Saintseneca has grown a lot since their start in 2007. But when they returned to Columbus on tour, playing two sold-out nights at Ace of Cups, it was clear that their hometown base hasn’t budged.

Joined by two other burgeoning local acts – Counterfeit Madison and Connections –Saintseneca’s show last Friday night was packed wall to wall with clearly joyful fans. And the joy was for good reason: along with buoyant performances by all three bands, the night was filled with affirmations of Columbus’ local music scene. Acts gave frequent shout outs to each other – and Ace of Cups’ sound engineer, Nick – often expressing disbelief at the luck they had in playing alongside their colleagues. Selling out a local bill on a larger stage doesn’t happen often (let alone twice) and it felt good to witness.

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all photos by Kaiya Gordon.

By the time Saintseneca took the stage, the crowd had thickened and warmed, and they poured themselves into the front of the room to press closely to the band. It was an impressive set-up – four of the five touring musicians lined up next to each other at the front of the stage, each of them with a full row of pedals and synths. They looked like a team. And when the band, at once, burst into play, the coiled energy that they had built together paid off in a big way.

Though the show felt, energetically, like a homecoming, the band itself continues to grow and change. Saintseneca released two new singles in 2017, which they played on Friday alongside their classics. The band also played material from a forthcoming album, which they’ve said is expected in 2018. But all of this material is compelling for the same reasons that the four-track, self-titled 2009 EP that started it all was – the musical complexity and depth, paired with sharply tuned songwriting, feels at once plaintative and deft.

The set itself was varied in composition: singer-songwriter Zac Little took the stage alone for several songs (while the rest of the band sat criss-crossed on the stage and watched, a move that I found very endearing), and the members often switched instruments. Twice, the band invited flautists Lesley and Laetitia onto the stage to play alongside them. With the flutes’ notes bouncing against the fullness of Saintseneca’s string selection, and wafting up to the high ceilings of the bar, the whole space felt transformed into a place of reverence.

Sharon Udoh of Counterfeit Madison expressed a similar sentiment during her set. “I live seven minutes away from here,” Udoh said to the audience, “and I want to talk about the privilege we have of watching Saintseneca perform.” She continued: “I grew up in church, and last night watching Saintseneca was one of the most religious experiences I’ve had.”

Udoh’s performance, too, was remarkable in its fervor. Each song from Counterfeit Madison’s debut feels intensely crafted, as though many different musical threads were woven tightly together to make songs which spring forth with energy. That energy is only further intensified onstage. Udoh and her band screamed, smiled, and laughed; Udoh’s physical presence on the stage was very much a part of her performance too. As she sang, Udoh flung her microphone onto the ground, picked up her keyboard to play it sideways, and at one point, threw her body into the crowd to finish the performance while writing on the ground.

If Counterfeit Madison’s performance was punk in its inhibition, it was also sweetly sentimental. “Bitches,” Udoh announced to the audience at one point, “I’m a queen. But Connections and Saintseneca are heroes, and I’m really proud to be around them.” Taking a step back and surveying the audience, Udoh continued: “I need to stop before I start crying.” It was a sentiment that many others in the audience, I think, echoed. By the end of the night, I would have been surprised if no tears had been shed.


PLAYING COLUMBUS: Bands to Watch – An Annotated Playlist

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Grunge Dad is one of Columbus Alive’s Bands to Watch.

Imagine: Columbus Alive just released their much anticipated lineup for their annual Bands to Watch concert, and the coffee shop conversation is relentless. The show – which will include Sarob, Grunge Dad, Akula, Souther, and Future Nuns – is this Saturday, but you don’t know any of the acts. What do you do? You can’t drop your hipper-than-thou act (you’ve been keeping that up for years), and your “support local artists” laptop sticker won’t mean anything if you need to ask all of your post-punk friends for input. But you don’t want to miss out on the show, either.

Fear not! School your friends and foes by reading up on our annotated playlist, your guide to navigating any of the niche convos sure to happen at Skully’s on Saturday night. And more: we’ve included five of our favorite up-and-coming locals, so you can not only go above-and-beyond to impress your roommates – you might find yourself investing further in Columbus’ varied music scene.


Sarob is a deeply introspective musician. His 2017 release, Seeing in the Dark, deftly combines piano, rap, and gorgeous vocals. Beyond the dazzle of the samples and sounds that Sarob pulls into his work, Seeing in the Dark highlights intentionally and emotionally impactful lyrics with skill.


Though Grunge Dad has been playing together for less than a year, their thoughtful, addictive first EP, I Feel Weird, seems timeless. It’s an EP’s casual coolness makes Grunge Dad come across as friends you’d like to have because of their mix of artistic drive and relaxed perspective. On I Feel Weird, vocalist Lisa Brokaw’s tone is flippant but intoxicating, driven forward by drummer Emma Headley and peppered with dizzying bass riffs by Marie Corbo.


Akula is made up of five life-long musicians – Chris Thompson, Jeff Martin, Scott Hyatt, Sergei Parfenov, and Ronnie Miller – and it shows in their ambitious debut EP. Though only four songs long, each of those songs is a marathon. But while the instrumentals are piled into melodic heavy rock, Jeff Martin’s vocals are surprisingly light. It’s a remarkably paced and balanced album: evidence of the years of craft put into its production.


The project of Carly Fratianne, Souther is influenced by Fratianne’s return to her home state of Ohio, as well as by her Americana and folk influences. Her debut Is For Lovers, is, as the first track suggests, brutally honest, but Fratianne doesn’t forgo attention to composition in pursuit of emotionality.


Future Nuns began and developed their group within Columbus’ DIY scene, and their scrappy approach to performance has served them well. The band frequently alters its line-up, as well as the instruments that individual members play. They’re magnetic, both on-stage and off.

Playing Columbus’ picks:


Being a multi-instrumental singer-songwriter and producer isn’t enough for Tatum Michelle Maura. She’s also an ever-present advocate for queer and trans folks in Columbus and regularly contributes to actions against police brutality. Her Facebook feed reads as a detailed and empathetic guide to the local music scene – Maura uplifts what seems like every new local release.

TTUM’s debut album, synthpop stunner Flwless Ruby, came out in October of 2017. Her latest release, however, is a slow-burning dance track she collaborated on with Maahikeee and Katskhi.


After a nearly 2-year hiatus, Cherry Chrome is back in the studio to record a new album. I’m stoked, and as soon as you hear the opening hook from the 2016 self-titled album, you will be too. It’s dreamy, well-placed music with a distinctive rock edge – and honestly, it’s also just catchy. All four members – Xenia Bleveans-Holm, Mick Martinez, Amina Adesiji, and David Holm – contribute vocals, building an eerie sound which nearly echoes against the group’s thick bass and drum lines.


“Our genre: what a cutoff t-shirt would sound like if it was music” reads a recent Facebook post by DIY locals Queer Kevin. It’s indicative of the general tone of the duo’s online presence. But Queer Kevin is a band to take seriously. Prolific both in their touring and musical output, Felix and Dylan release sprawling lo-fi songs with deeply impactful lyrics.


Sharon Udoh, who performs under the moniker Counterfeit Madison, has recieved much-deserved acclaim for her 2017 album, Opposable Thumbs. Still, I think she’s underrated. Udoh moves effortlessly between genres, her voice captivating throughout the classical, jazz, gospel, rock, and soul-inspired concoction that she has created on Opposable Thumbs. Udoh holds the great gift of being able to be funny, as well as beautiful in her art, and she wields it with impressive precision.


BLKGLD’s self-titled EP is art that makes you feel good about art. The smooth production on the album gives its mixture of stretched-out bass and guitar parts and poetry a mythic, almost underwater quality. It’s an album emblematic of the vast collaborative possibilities available within Columbus, as well as the talent and deft writing this city is filled with. Listening to BLKGLD feels like watching sun-glimmered water moving through the tide.


PLAYING COLUMBUS: Mouth Mag Highlights Local Hip Hop

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OG Vern. Photo by Annie Noelker

When Annie Noelker moved to Columbus in 2014 to attend Columbus College of Art & Design, she was already interested in stories. “As a little kid I would hide under my covers and read until I fell asleep,” she tells me. “I found visual art and storytelling in the form of drawing, painting, and then photography.” But something clicked when her college friends introduced her to hip hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Frank Ocean. “I listened to their albums as if I was reading a novel,” she says.

Over the summer of 2017, Noelker dove into the Columbus hip hop and rap scene, learning more about her local community. “Overwhelmed” by talent, Noelker turned to her background in portraiture to document the burgeoning scene. As her collection of portraits grew, she realized that she needed a way to share the work. Pairing her portraits with interviews of the artists, Noelker put together a magazine: Mouth Mag. “It’s been my baby for the last six months,” she tells me. 

Mouth Mag is launching this Saturday, December 9th, at Kafe Kerouac in Columbus, Ohio. The launch will be celebrated with performances by OG Vern, Yogi Split, Joey Aich, Broke Bois, Stems, Soblue, Breetherapper, The Collective, and RED. At the party, Noelker tells me, she’s most excited for “all the artists to hold their copy.” 

“I worked so hard on this,” she continues, “I cried when I unwrapped the first one.”

We caught up with Noelker ahead of the launch to talk to her about her process, favorite interviews, and the future of Mouth Mag. Check out the rest of the interview below.

Audiofemme: What is your portraiture process like?

Annie Noelker: Prior to a shoot, I research the artist and listen to their music. I write down colors, places, and emotions that fill my head as I’m listening and I try to emulate those things in each photograph. I don’t plan much outside of that. 

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Broke Bois. Photo by Annie Noelker

AF: I know that one of your focuses with Mouth Mag is photographing artists through the lens of a woman. But I’m interested in how you approach other ways that your identity is disparate from the artists you work with. Your entry into the hip hop community, for example, happened pretty recently. How do you avoid fetishizing your subjects, especially black artists who so often are problematically portrayed through photography?

AN: This is absolutely a huge issue: hip hop artists are, more often than not, portrayed as characters, leaving many with a desire to create and fulfill a persona. I find that the male gaze often feeds into the portrayal of these artists as characters rather than emotional human beings with stories to share. This familiarizes the public with the persona, not the person. I find my perspective as both a woman and a documentary portrait photographer allows for the stripping of pre-conceived notion.  There’s a huge significance in understanding the person standing before my lens. Additionally, black and white imagery has always had a significance for me. It strips away any glamor that traditionally follows hip hop photography, and allows emphasis on truth and honesty. Honesty is everything.

AF: What is your favorite interview in this issue? 

AN: I really love my interview with RED. He has this new album coming out (date = TBA) and I got a little sneak peak and had the opportunity to ask questions specific to that new music. I really love Correy Parks’ interview and doing the Broke Bois interview was so much fun.

AF: Are there any music photographers that you look up to?

AN: I really admire the work of Hayley Louisa Brown. She is not only a music portraiture photographer, but the creator of BRICK magazine which served as a huge inspiration for Mouth Mag. I also really love Olivia Rose and the honesty of her images and in how she approaches her subjects. 

AF: What has been the most challenging part of this project?

AN: I think the most challenging part of this whole process was having to narrow down images and limit the number of people I could showcase in the first issue. There is so much talent in Columbus – it’s absolutely overwhelming. I also don’t have any previous design experience or knowledge of how to use the programs so I taught myself InDesign to make the magazine and I borrowed my understanding of composition to help me with layout. Placing text was very difficult. 

AF: What does the future of Mouth Mag look like?

AN: I love Columbus and it will always have a place in my heart but I would really love to travel with Mouth Mag and take it to new cities.


PLAYING COLUMBUS: Kizzy Hall & Diet Cig @ Ace of Cups

All photos by Kaiya Gordon

“Y’all Ohioans know how to do rock bands in a way the rest of the country is trying to catch up to,” said Caleb Cordes of Sinai Vessel on Sunday night at the Ace of Cups. The band was following Columbus’ own Kizzy Hall, who opened the show with a fast-paced set that, yes, did reek of rock-and-roll.

It was clear that the crowd took pride in their Ohioan roots, cheering as Cordes gave his shout-out, and dancing with vigor throughout the night. As the night opened, hometown fans crowded the stage to sing Kizzy Hall’s lyrics back to the band, taking selfies and, later, collecting set-lists.

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Kizzy Hall

When headliners Diet Cig finally took the stage, Ace of Cups was vibrating with enthusiasm.

“I feel like Ohio gets a bad rap,” said singer Alex Luciano, as she opened the set. “But every time we’re out here, I [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][think] this is the best place in the world.” She continued: “We’ve played at the Ace of Cups a few times and each time has been dreamy…y’all are so nice and cool here, and good looking, and punk!”

Diet Cig is notorious for their high-powered live performances, and though Luciano was hindered by a torn ACL, the duo still played with force. On drums, Noah Bowman is unassuming but relentless, driving Luciano’s guitar riffs to their peaks. And Luciano, regardless of dancing ability, is magnetic onstage. As she sways, twists, winks, dips, and–of course–makes her signature high-kick, it’s hard not to look on with glee.

“Raise your hand if your crush is here,” said Alex, at the beginning of  “Maid of the Mist.” “During this quiet song you can look at them and wink. Or, if you can’t wink…blink twice.” Later in the set, during what Luciano called the “makeout interlude,” she said: “if you blinked at someone earlier, now is the time to kiss them.”

Though critics of Diet Cig find fault in the band’s saccharine qualities, I found it moving to be in a space where I could trust the musicians onstage to go to bat for each other, and for the crowd.

“A lot of times women, and queer folks, and trans folks, and non-binary folks get told that their voice doesn’t matter,” said Luciano at the end of their performance. “But it does matter. Thank you for coming and for taking up space here.”

Luciano also thanked survivors of sexual assault, saying, “It’s a radical act to be out at a show right now.”

Space, or lack of it, is a constant theme in Diet Cig’s work, and while I think it is all too easy to step on somebody else’s toes in the name of taking space, without considering the ways that one is structurally set-up to inhabit that space already, watching Luciano move freely around the stage is joyful. And I am grateful for the attention that the duo pays to creating a “safer space” at their shows.

Standing in the crowd, relieved to be done with the pressured social niceties that come with Thanksgiving, and thankful to be watching a band that is always so entirely themselves, I felt prepared to take on the world for the first time in a week.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

PLAYING COLUMBUS: Torres @ The Basement

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All photos by Kaiya Gordon

As I watched Torres’ show last night at The Basement in Columbus, I drafted what I thought might be the opening lines of my review in my head. Before getting to the show, I thought, I felt like I needed to either cry publicly or get in a fist fight. But Torres, the project of Mackenzie Scott, utterly transported me. Though it nearly blew out my ear drums, Torres’ ruthless live performance left me feeling weightless and renewed, as though I had opened myself up in some radical way, drinking in newfound grace and energy.

I thought of phrases I might use and lines I might write. Perhaps I’d say that I felt lucky to see Scott play guitar live, or that hearing Torres’ latest release, Three Futures, in person gave me a newfound appreciation for the album. I thought I knew how my review was going to go all the way up until the end of the set, when a fan lurched forward and kissed Scott on the lips, and I watched Scott’s shocked expression through the lens of my camera.

My stomach dropped. My chest clenched, and I could feel all of the muscles in my body buzzing with anger, shame, and remembered fear. And Scott kept playing. And the fan kept cheering and singing along.

It is truly exhausting to be confronted with assault on a daily basis. I hate waking up and scrolling through my Twitter timeline, bracing myself for the latest admission of hurt. I hate having to Google  each artist I interview, or photograph, or otherwise support, trying to discern whether or not they’ve been outed as an abuser. I hate having to rationalize that search to those who don’t understand why it is needed. I hate seeing reminders of my own assaults, and my friends’ assaults, every single day. And I hate that those reminders simultaneously confirm for me what I already know – that those most marginalized by systems of power are most susceptible to abuse – while highlighting how often those voices are excluded from the conversation.

It’s likely that Torres’ fan didn’t think of what they did as assault. Perhaps Scott didn’t either. But it’s horrifying to think that, regardless of where you are, and regardless of what protections you think you may have created for your body, it is unreasonable to ask that you only be touched with your consent.

Mackenzie Scott gave so much to the stage on Wednesday night, and I felt truly in awe of her sheer talent – of how she manipulated her guitar pedals, of how her hands ran up and down the guitar’s neck with apparent effortlessness, of how orchestrated the entirety of the set felt. I was amazed by how much she moved onstage, and by the way that her band used their instruments in new and interesting ways to fill in the gaps of each song with unexpected and illuminative sounds. When, at the beginning of the show, Scott apologized for having to fix her pedal board – “We’re removing the veil up front,” she joked – I was thankful for the moment to look behind that veil, because it only made me appreciate more the immense effort that went into making the set sound so tight.

But I’m angry that, in the giving, in making herself visible, she was touched in a way that, at the very least, surprised her. I wish that it was possible to be both safe and a live body.

“To be given a body / is the greatest gift,” Scott sings on the last track of Three Futures. It’s a song that Scott says she avoided writing until the end of the project. And frankly, it’s tough to write about bodies. Perhaps, some days, having a body really is a gift. Other days, it doesn’t feel like that. But always, we are bodies, and to be embodied is to be vulnerable to harm.

When I left The Basement, I was shaken. But I also recalled something that Scott had said to the crowd in the middle of her set: “I’m very honored,” she said, “to be here sharing with you.”  I am thankful that, despite everything, there are artists like Scott sharing their work with the world.


AF X CMJ 2013 ARTIST PROFILE: Time and Temperature

To get you as pumped as we are for our CMJ 2013 showcases, we’re introducing each band to you by asking them five unique questions  Time and Temperature is playing Sidewalk Cafe, 94 Ave. A in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 16th at 10PM.  You can RSVP on facebook or DoNYC.

t&tvalVal Glenn began Time & Temperature as 4-track recording project in 2005.  Though T&T occasionally expands to include other musicians, Glenn performs and records mostly solo, her soulful croon relating stories mournful and beautiful.  The music has a timeless, folk-noir feel; one gets the sense that these songs are beings of their own accord, birthed by magic into the air.  Her guitarwork is deliberate but takes its time, weaving through Glenn’s intimate narratives with confident ease.

AF: You recently relocated from Columbus, OH to Minneapolis. What has that process been like as a musician? Has it inspired any new songs

T&T: Well…I moved to Minneapolis because I wanted to be closer to a music community that I felt better understood in. I have some really good long term creative friendships there that I wanted to be closer to. But, I was thrown a curve ball when one of my dear friends was killed on her bike 2 weeks after I got there. It’s been a real tragedy and basically immediately changed everything in the community I’m involved in. Friendships changed, motivations changed. Also, a lot of great venues in Minneapolis have closed or stopped doing shows recently so it’s hard in a way for people not to have the ending of things on their mind a lot right now. The process has been more challenging, actually. In terms of my inspiration, I still think it’s been good. Having more time to think and feel and challenge the way I do things is still as good for my creative process as doing the rock star thing where I’m just going out being awesome with other awesome people all the time. It’s like a rebirth. Or something. 

AF: Where did you learn to play guitar? What artists inspired you to pursue a music for yourself?

T&T: Well, I started playing guitar when I was 11. My parents didn’t want to buy me a guitar because I was super shy as a kid and everyone at school thought I was a geek so they thought that maybe it was best to keep me away from things that would have me interact with society. I took lessons for a year but I’m mostly self-taught. My teacher wanted me to learn theory and I was like, jesus christ. A lot of people are like me and learn the basics and then just play along with their favorite records.

I actually listened to a lot of metal as a youth and a lot of classical, but I think initially I was inspired by early indie rock bands and proto-punk bands because it seemed like they were conceptually compelling but not like, prodigal musicians at all. Like hardly even good. I figured I could at least do that.

AF: Some time ago, you were planning to release a follow-up to Cream of the Low Tide but only released one single from those sessions. What are your plans for that material?

T&T: Yeah! I just self-released a tape of that material for this tour that I’m on right now. I also have a full length record coming out in a few months but I wanted to keep doing short run releases before that record comes out.

AF: Your songs seem so personal and yet you deliver them unflinchingly. Do you ever get nervous sharing your work in intimate spaces? Does it make you more nervous to play for strangers or for people you know? 

T&T: I initially thought this said “does it make you more nervous to play for stranglers”.

I totally get nervous. It always depends, it depends on the crowd. Nerves are always good for me. I get more worried when I’m not nervous. It means my head is not in what I’m doing.

AF: What kind of bird makes the worst sound?

T&T: Lovebirds, definitely. The bird kind and the human kind.

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